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Australia has kept the Great Barrier Reef from being listed as endangered after Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government boosted efforts to protect the World Heritage site and popular tourist destination.
Australia must now provide an update by late 2016 on progress implementing a long-term plan to protect the famed reef, according to a preliminary decision Friday by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
That’s a win for the government, which had sought to avert the embarrassment of an endangered designation for the world’s largest reef system, so big it can be seen from space. It also comes as mining companies including Adani Enterprises Ltd. are moving ahead with plans to expand a coal port near the reef.
Climate change, extreme weather and coastal development are among the threats cited to a reef that stretches about 2,300 kilometers (1,420 miles), greater in size than the United Kingdom. The initial decision comes before a World Heritage committee meeting scheduled for next month.
Australia earlier this year pledged further funds as part of a 2050 plan to protect Earth’s biggest coral ecosystem and announced it will ban the dumping of dredging waste in the Barrier Reef marine park.
The government also must submit by December 2019 a report on the overall state of conservation, according to the documents filed on UNESCO’s website.
President Barack Obama warned in a November speech in Queensland that the “incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threatened,” prompting a rebuke from Australia’s minister for trade and investment, Andrew Robb, who called the remarks “misinformed” and “unnecessary.”
The reef is home to about 1,600 species of fish, 600 types of soft and hard corals and 17 species of sea snakes in an area half the size of Texas, according to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. About 2 million tourists visit the Barrier Reef each year.
“We are all conservationists,” Abbott said in March. “We are all utterly committed to protecting this magnificent environmental asset.”
This article was written by James Paton from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.